Capitol Updates

Capitol Update – March 22, 2019

 

Bill Would Allow Grieving of Plans of Improvement

NSEA supports a legislative proposal, LB537 offered by Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, that educators hope will stem a “troubling trend” in the teaching profession: the inclusion of punitive measures in performance improvement plans for educators.

The bill would allow educators to file a grievance over performance plans that contain burdensome and punitive measures. Under current law, teachers have no means of appealing or grieving these burdensome and unreasonable performance plans.

NSEA organizational specialists have reported an increasing number of teachers are being placed on performance improvement plans that are designed to be punitive rather than designed to improve instruction.

Some of these plans had teachers assigned lists of books to read and other tasks that are burdensome and are not supportive of best practices in adult learning. It was evident that many of these plans aren’t personalized to the needs of the educator. Instead, they were “cookie cutter” plans designed to hinder the teacher, not improve instruction.

Administrators writing these poor plans use them as a method to drive out teachers without the administrator exercising his/her due diligence and without following established dismissal practices. To succeed, teachers need administrators who will exercise their own teaching skills with a sincere desire to help these struggling teachers improve. NSEA supports LB537 because administrators must also be held accountable for providing support for teachers who are struggling.

 

ACTION NEEDED! Soon the Education Committee will decide whether to advance LB537 to the full Legislature for consideration. Please contact senators on the Education Committee and explain why educators should be able to file grievances over performance plans that contain burdensome and punitive measures. Here are the emails of the Education Committee members:

                      Sen. Mike Groene, Chair: mgroene@leg.ne.gov

       Sen. Tom Brewer: tbrewer@leg.ne.gov

              Sen. Rick Kolowski: rkolowski@leg.ne.gov

                Sen. Lou Ann Linehan: llinehan@leg.ne.gov

             Sen. Adam Morfeld: amorfeld@leg.ne.gov

               Sen. Dave Murman: dmurman@leg.ne.gov

                                        Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks: ppansingbrooks@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Lynn Walz: lwalz@leg.ne.gov

 

Revenue Committee Considers Property Tax Relief

The Legislature’s Revenue Committee is considering a package of proposals that aim to address property tax relief while raising the revenue to pay for it. But one thing stands out as irresponsible: tax cuts for the wealthy. Our state is already facing budget problems and struggling to meet the needs of all Nebraskans. Taking into account the recent flooding disaster in Nebraska and expected negative revenue impact along with infrastructure repair needs, revenue cuts at this time would be reckless!

According to media reports, the Revenue Committee aims to reduce personal and corporate income taxes from 6.84% and 7.81% respectively to 6.75%. More than 80% of the corporate income tax cuts will go out of state, resulting in a $66 million loss in revenue to the State of Nebraska.

These cuts would be paid for on the backs of low and middle-income families and would affect our state’s investments in K-12 public schools, health care, public safety, law enforcement, and infrastructure -- and other crucial services.

The Revenue Committee is also considering raising the state’s sales tax by a half-cent. While this could be helpful in addressing our state’s over reliance on property taxes, it’s important that any sales tax increase is offset for low-income families by way of an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit or some other measure.

Further, it’s imperative that our K-12 public schools are adequately funded. There are many ways to get there, and the Revenue Committee is right to explore lifting tax exemptions on things like lawn service and limousine services.  

 

ACTION NEEDED! Call and email revenue committee senators now and tell them to oppose personal and corporate income tax cuts that will benefit the wealthy. Also, please tell them to oppose tax cuts that will hurt Nebraskans and instead support meaningful tax reform.

                           Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, Chair: llinehan@leg.ne.gov

          Sen. Tom Briese: tbriese@leg.ne.gov     

                      Sen. Sue Crawford: scrawford@leg.ne.gov       

          Sen. Curt Friesen: cfriesen@leg.ne.gov 

           Sen. Mike Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov

                      Sen. Mark Kolterman: mkolterman@leg.ne.gov

                       Sen. Brett Lindstrom: blindstrom@leg.ne.gov    

                      Sen. John McCollister: jmccollister@leg.ne.gov

 

Committee Hearings Ahead

Unless otherwise noted, hearings begin at 1:30 p.m. and are live-streamed via NET and can be accessed online by clicking here. Every bill is referred to a committee and scheduled for a public hearing. For a list of all bills, click here.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Education Committee – Room 1525

LB676 (Groene) Change provisions relating to school districts and the reorganization of school districts

NSEA Position: Monitor

Updates language in various statutes to reflect current organization of school districts all providing elementary and secondary education under a single school board. Amends reorganization of school district statutes to clarify procedures, to conform statutory language with court decisions, and to harmonize language related the reorganization of school districts.

LB725 (Walz) Provide for reimbursements to school districts and ESU’s for mental health expenditures

NSEA Position: Support

Creates the “School Mental Health Resource Fund” which is to be used to reimburse school districts and ESUs for mental health related expenditures on a pro-rated basis up to 80% of the total expenditures. Schools and ESUs would be required to designate an employee to be the community-based mental health resource liaison to assist students, families, teachers, and schools in locating resources necessary to address mental health needs of individuals in the district or educational service unit in order to access any funds under the bill.

LB488 (Howard) Adopt requirements for mental health education and drug awareness and prevention

NSEA Position: Support

Provides clarity of the requirements for mental health education that includes recognizing mental health warning signs, identifying characteristics of mental wellness, and utilizing resources for assistance in mental health. Many school districts provide instruction on mental health and wellness, so the requirements of the bill should not be too cumbersome for school districts to implement. The bill also encourages teaching strategies for management, awareness, and prevention methods of mental health issues and drug abuse which are growing concerns within school districts.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Education Committee – Room 1525

LB358 (Walz) Change provisions related to early childhood education in TEEOSA

NSEA Position: Support

Changes the calculation of qualified early childhood education membership for purposes of the formula. Currently, early childhood membership is calculated based upon 60% of the students who are enrolled in an approved early childhood education grant program and who are eligible to attend kindergarten in the following school year. The bill changes the percentage to 80% of the early childhood membership at certification and recalculation of aid beginning in FY2020-21. Provisions also provide for: a new early childhood allowance, for early childhood education students to be included in regular route transportation for the inclusion in the transportation allowance calculation and an aid equal to fifty percent of the early childhood education allowance plus early childhood education transportation costs calculated.

LB656 (Wayne) Adopt the Nebraska Education Formula, terminate TEEOSA, and change levy limits

NSEA Position: Oppose

Eliminates TEEOSA starting in 2020/21 and replaces it with the Nebraska Education Formula. Would distribute State Aid as follows: $4,750k per fall membership student; Sparse/Very Sparse districts get an additional $500 per fall membership student; $1,600 per free lunch student; if free lunch students are over 50% of all fall membership districts gets an additional $800 per student; $1,600 per LEP student. Schools would receive aid as noted above for 2020/21 plus 2/3 of the additional aid they received from TEEOSA in 2019/20 if their aid calculated less per the calculation above. Schools would receive aid as noted above for 2021/22 plus 1/3 of the additional aid they received from TEEOSA in 2019/20 if their aid calculated less per the calculation above.

LB588 (Stinner) Change the local effort rate pursuant to the TEEOSA

NSEA Position: Monitor

Increases the Local Effort Rate (LER) from $1.00 to $1.02. The Local Effort Rate is multiplied by the adjusted valuation in TEEOSA to determine what local property tax resources are available to school districts. An increase in the LER decreases the amount of TEEOSA paid to equalized school districts. This bill was proposed as a way for the state to adjust the budget if a shortfall occurs based on receipts and the economic forecasting boards February and April meetings.

 

Review of Committee Hearings

Monday, March 18, 2019

Education Committee – Room 1525

LB668 (Vargas) Adopt the Alternative Certification for Quality Teachers Act

NSEA Position: Support

Requires a certificate to teach in public schools shall be granted by the State Board to any person in good standing who possesses a valid teaching certificate from another state and who completes the requirements to maintain certification as required by the rules and regulations of the State Board. Additionally, a temporary certificate valid for up to two years to teach in public schools may be granted by the State Board to any person who has (1) presented to the board a valid bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college/university, (2) passed the basic skills examination and the appropriate subject area test designated by the board, and (3) enrolled in an alternative teacher certification program approved by the board.

LB640 (Howard) Include study relative to the Holocaust and other genocides to multicultural education

NSEA Position: Monitor

Amends the multicultural education statute and requires each district’s multicultural education program to include the study of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide as part of multicultural education. The additional content called for in the bill is currently included in the 2012 Nebraska Social Studies Standards and will most likely be included in the revised social studies standards.

LB537 (Lathrop) Change provisions regarding performance of a certificated school district employee

NSEA Position: Support

Amends certificated employee disciplinary action to add a fifth option that the superintendent of a district has to assist certificated employees and further school purposes. The new option is to place the certificated employee on a “performance improvement plan or other form of administrative directive to address alleged performance deficiencies.” Also adds an option for a certificated employee to, in addition to a reprimand, utilize the district’s grievance procedure or the certificated employee may also now appeal the decision for a reprimand or for a performance improvement plan (or other undefined “form of administrative directive”) directly to the school board.

LB568 (Morfeld) Provide mental health first aid training for school districts and change lottery funds

NSEA Position: Support

Provides for a focus on mental health first aid training for educators, including the identification of what is included in mental health first aid. Amends the statute for innovation grants to support mental health first aid, early literacy, quality instructional materials, personalized learning through digital education, or (e) other innovation areas identified by the State Board of Education.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Education Committee – Room 1525

LB679 (DeBoer) Create the School Financing Review Commission

NSEA Position: Support

Creates a 20-member school finance review commission. The members of the commission are to be appointed by the Commissioner and must include individuals from several different organizations and schools as follows: Three members of the Legislature; Property Tax Administrator; Director of ESUCC; Commissioner of Education; Representative of Governor; One members of Post-Secondary Education; Two members of each from a Class III, IV, V school district; Six members of the state at large.

LB647 (Wayne) Include virtual school students in the state aid to schools formula

NSEA Position: Monitor

Changes the calculation of fall membership used in the TEEOSA formula to include students less than 50% full time equivalent (FTE). Fall membership currently only includes students with an FTE greater than .5. Average Daily Membership which is used for the recalculation of TEEOSA already includes all students. The change proposed in this bill would cause the TEEOSA formula to recognize the students with a .5 FTE or less in the first calculation of TEEOSA. Virtual students that have an FTE greater than .5 are already recognized in the initial certification of TEEOSA.

LB350 (Morfeld) Provide a budget exception for expanded learning opportunity programs

NSEA Position: Support

Provides an exclusion to the budget authority lid for expanded learning opportunity programs or for school-based or school-linked activities that utilize school community partnerships to expand educational opportunities outside the normal classroom.

LB351 (Morfeld) Provide for school district levy authority for cybersecurity and violence prevention

NSEA Position: Support

Expands the uses of the qualified capital purpose undertaking fund (QCPUF) for school districts to include addressing cybersecurity vulnerabilities and violence prevention. The QCPUF currently can only be used for abatement projects related to potential environmental hazards, accessibility barriers, life safety code violations, and life safety hazards or mold. School districts would still be required to keep the total QCPUF levy at or below three cents and be subject to the same total levy lid requirements.

Appropriations Committee – Room 1524

Agency 13 – Department of Education Budget Hearing

Retirement Committee – Room 1507 at 5:00pm

LB31 (Kolterman) Provide for a study on the transfer of management from OSERS to NPERS

NSEA Position: Support

Requires the Public Employee Retirement Board in consultation with Retirement Committee, OSERS, OPS and other stakeholders to prepare a Work Plan that examines what must occur in order to carry out a transfer of management responsibilities for the OSERS Plan to the PERB.

LB683 (Kolterman) Provide for a study relating to a one-time lump sum payment to OSERS members

NSEA Position: Neutral

Adds a new section to the Class V School Employees Retirement Act.  It adds intent language to develop a work plan with recommendations and cost estimates for a one-time option for certain terminated members to receive a lump sum payment of a specified percentage of the present value of the member’s deferred retirement benefit in lieu of all rights to receive the retirement benefits under the Act. This is a placeholder bill introduced at the request of OPS.

LB706 (Lindstrom) Authorize a one-year freeze of cost-of-living adjustments for OSERS retirees

NSEA Position: Oppose

Grants the OSERS Board of Trustees the authority to place a freeze on any COLA adjustment, including the medical COLA paid to retirees between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. This is a placeholder bill introduced at the request of OPS.

Friday, March 21, 2019

Judiciary Committee – Warner Chamber

LB491 (Wayne) Authorize punitive damages as prescribed

NSEA Position: Support

A court may award punitive damages when the defendant has displayed actual intent to cause harm or causes an injury through action taken in reckless disregard for the lives and safety of others. Punitive damages may be awarded to punish the defendant and provide retribution, to act as a deterrent to the defendant and others inclined to behave in a similar manner, and to demonstrate the court's disapproval of such conduct. Pursuant to the Nebraska Constitution Art. VII, Sec. 5, all such fines, penalties, and license money shall be appropriated exclusively to the use and support of the common schools.

LB685 (Lathrop) Prohibit the denial or delay of a remedy by due course of law as prescribed

NSEA Position: Support

Ensures that people retain access to Nebraska's court system when involved in mediation, binding arbitration, a grievance procedure, or any other form of dispute resolution, unless the Legislature specifically establishes that such a process must be exhausted prior to seeking judicial relief.